(4.04.05) ‘Confusion’ Led to Possible Conflict
RALEIGH — Rep. Bill Owens says confusion on the part of House Speaker Jim Black about where to spend state discretionary funds created what appears to be a conflict of interest for the Pasquotank County Democrat. Last fall, Owens helped secure state grants that would benefit his downtown Elizabeth City real estate holdings, located on Main Street. The money came from discretionary funds Black and Senate leader Marc Basnight controlled in the Department of Transportation and the Department of Cultural Resources. Carolina Journal and The News & Observer first revealed the accounts last month.
(3.28.05) Morgan Controlled Yet Another Fund
RALEIGH — In addition to the $2.4 million discretionary fund parked at the Department of Health and Human Services that he and Speaker Jim Black were to divide, former Republican House co-speaker Richard Morgan controlled $1.5 million in another account. Last fall, Morgan instructed the Department of Health and Human Services to send $500,000 to his district of Moore County to set up a senior center. He later decided to double it. On Oct. 14, 2004, DHHS Division of Aging and Adult Services Director Karen Gottovi sent a memo to Moore County Manager Steve Wyatt informing him of the money, which did not appear in any line item in the approved state budget.
(3.22.05) Law At Issue In Slush Fund Grants
RALEIGH — Gov. Mike Easley’s administration and legislative leaders may have violated a state law in the distribution of discretionary funds to projects of nonprofits and local governments that had been considered but turned down by the General Assembly. General Statute 143-16.3 says that the state government may spend "no funds from any source…for any new or expanded purposes, positions, or expenditure" which the legislature has already considered but failed to enact earlier in the same fiscal period. Records show that nine projects that were turned down in the final budget passed by the General Assembly were later funded using discretionary funds.
(3.17.05) Slush Fund Slights Safety Projects
RALEIGH — N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett has diverted millions of dollars that could have been used for documented highway safety needs to projects selected by legislative leaders. According to state law, the DOT secretary is to approve all projects financed from a $15 million annual “contingency fund,” but DOT records and interviews show that for the past few years Tippett gave $5 million a year each to the speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate to spend on projects they chose. Rep. Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, and Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare, hold those offices.
(2.25.05) Easley Announces New Jobs - Again
RALEIGH — Workhorse Aviation Manufacturing will open a manufacturing plant at the Global TransPark near Kinston, Gov. Mike Easley said Wednesday. The company will create 50 jobs over the next three years and invest more than $2 million in a deal made possible in part because of $100,000 from the One North Carolina Fund, he said. But in November, Easley announced that Workhorse Aviation would locate the same project in the Trenton Industrial Park in nearby Jones County. The governor’s spokeswoman wasn’t aware of the previous announcement and couldn’t explain why the company changed locations.
(2.23.05) Wildlife Resources Partner in Ferry
RALEIGH — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission was a partner in an Outer Banks passenger ferry project that is behind schedule and may never operate as planned. The Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division planned to operate a 50-foot, 50-passenger, enclosed-cabin pontoon boat between the Currituck mainland and Corolla on the Outer Banks. The project stalled in June when state and local environmental officials learned that DOT Ferry Division supervisor Bill Moore used a workboat’s propellers to cut a channel in the shallow sound at Corolla. Officials have consistently cited the need to transport students to school as the main justification.
(2.01.05) Easley, Basnight Spar Over Airport
RALEIGH—Gov. Mike Easley and state Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight are locked in a fight over a small airport in Currituck County. The fight involves all three branches of government — the legislature that makes laws; the governor, who executes the laws; and the judicial branch, which has been asked to settle a lawsuit filed by Currituck County. The case is scheduled for Feb. 8, but sources expect the losing side to appeal. A Carolina Journal investigation revealed a misunderstanding about the history of the site and questions about the legality of the land transfer. Also at issue is the taxpayers’ interest in selling surplus land.
(1.05.05) Currituck Deed May Be Illegal
RALEIGH — Gov. Mike Easley may have violated state law when he transferred 205 acres of state land to Currituck County on Dec. 1, 2004, because the Council of State had not approved the transaction. According to state law, every proposed conveyance of state land, including by gift, shall be submitted to the governor and Council of State for their approval. Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry wrote Easley on Sept. 23 and asked him to put the airport matter on the agenda for the Oct. 5 meeting, but never received a response. The transfer was discussed at the end of the Council’s Nov. 2 meeting, but it took no action.
(12.19.04) No. 798: Closing of School in Bertie County Makes No Sense
A federal order to close an elementary school in Bertie County because the school has too many white children is absurd.
(12.16.04) Easley’s Hand Stronger on Airport
RALEIGH — Gov. Mike Easley and State Senate leader Marc Basnight are at odds over the ownership of property adjacent to the Currituck County Airport. Basnight and Currituck officials contend the airport site comprises 535 acres, and cite a budget provision to argue that the entire property be donated. Easley’s position is that the airport area is much smaller. He originally offered Currituck 160 acres. In his position, Basnight relies on the claim that the 535-acre tract was surplus property given to the state by the federal government after World War II, But records show the land wasn’t owned by Washington, leaving Easley free to define the airport’s size.